Summary: Chapter 9: The Goldfish Pond

As the morning wears on, Dr. Sheppard and Poirot stroll the estate and eavesdrop on Flora and Blunt. The lawyer Mr. Hammond has informed Flora that her uncle Roger left her 20,000 pounds, and she is exuberant. She flirts with Blunt, who broods about going back to Africa. He seems relieved when Flora asks him to stay on for a while. Blunt sees a piece of jewelry at the bottom of the goldfish pond. Poirot interviews Flora and Blunt about their movements the previous evening. Blunt tells Poirot that at 9:30 p.m., he was on the terrace smoking when he heard Roger’s voice from the study. He also caught a glimpse through the bushes of a woman wearing white passing. Flora vividly recalls that when she and Dr. Sheppard were looking at the curio case before dinner, the dagger was missing. Poirot fishes a woman’s gold wedding ring out of the pond, inscribed “From R., March 13th.”

Summary: Chapter 10: The Parlormaid

Lunchtime approaches on September 18. Poirot finds out from Mr. Hammond the details of Roger’s will: 1,000 pounds to Miss Russell; 50 pounds to the cook, Emma Cooper; 500 pounds to Geoffrey Raymond; the income on 10,000 shares of Ackroyd and Son to be paid to Mrs. Ackroyd during her lifetime; 20,000 pounds to Flora; and the remaining assets and estate—a large fortune—to Ralph. Mr. Hammond also tells Poirot that Ralph poorly manages his personal finances and was always asking his stepfather for money. Poirot enlists Dr. Sheppard’s help to extract information from Blunt on the subject of Mrs. Ferrars. Blunt admits he had come into a sum of money a year prior that he had squandered on an investment scheme. 

After lunch, Mrs. Ackroyd fumes about the bequest to Miss Russell, in the light of Roger’s parsimony toward herself and Flora. Mr. Hammond requests to confirm the whereabouts of the hundred pounds in cash Roger had gotten September 17 to pay wages and expenses. Raymond says Roger had a habit of keeping cash in an old box in his bedroom and states that he saw him place the money there the day before. Inspector Raglan unlocks the hallway door to Roger’s wing, and Mr. Hammond counts the money, finding it to be short forty pounds. Mrs. Ackroyd says that the housemaid Elsie Dale would have had access to Roger’s bedroom. They question Miss Russell about the staff: She vouches for Miss Dale’s character and provides a Mrs. Folliott’s letter of reference she has on file for the parlormaid Ursula Bourne, who has given notice following a scolding the day before by Roger. When questioned, Ursula admits that she and Roger argued for about thirty minutes. Poirot remarks to Dr. Sheppard that Ursula had no alibi the night before and asks Dr. Sheppard to follow up on the reference letter by going to Marby, fourteen miles up the road.

Summary Chapter 11: Poirot Pays a Call

Sunday afternoon, September 19, Dr. Sheppard travels to Marby as agreed and interviews Mrs. Folliott about her experience employing Ursula Bourne. Mrs. Folliott becomes agitated and evasive, and Dr. Sheppard leaves without discovering the cause. He returns to King’s Abbot, sees patients, and arrives home at 6:00 p.m. In the meantime, Poirot comes to tea. He regales Caroline with details about some of his juicy cases, and she gives him information relating to the Ackroyd case. Poirot finds out about Ralph and the mystery woman’s conversation. He also now knows the patients that Dr. Sheppard saw on the morning of September 17: Mrs. Bennett, a farm boy, Dolly Grice, a steward from an American ocean liner, George Evans, and Miss Russell.

Analysis: Chapters 9–11

Poirot’s study of human nature continues to be a central theme as he manipulates those around him to get the information he seeks. As Poirot tells Dr. Sheppard, “Everyone has something to hide,” but Poirot knows that interviewing people directly will not yield the truth. Everyone will have their guard up around Poirot and so the detective must employ more subtle tactics.

First, Poirot suggests a leisurely walk around the grounds of Fernly with Dr. Sheppard, but nothing Poirot does is so idle as that. He leads Dr. Sheppard to a very specific spot—one overlooking the goldfish pond—where they can eavesdrop on Major Horace Blunt and Flora. By listening undetected, Poirot and Dr. Sheppard glean information they might otherwise have not, including Flora’s money troubles and the budding courtship between Flora and Blunt.

Poirot continues to employ his manipulative tactics as he more formally engages Dr. Sheppard’s help. Dr. Sheppard complains of his dull life, which indicates to Poirot that Sheppard will be eager to assist, and Poirot uses this to his advantage. He says to Sheppard, “Now there are some things I want to know—but I do not wish to seem to want to know them. You comprehend? So it will be your part to ask the questions.” In this way, Poirot gets Sheppard to surreptitiously interrogate Blunt, and later to travel to Marby to interview Mrs. Folliott about Ursula Bourne.

At first, Poirot and Dr. Sheppard’s partnership appears solid and natural, mirroring the most famous detective-doctor partnership in literature: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. But even early on, it is clear that this relationship will be a skewed take on the familiar trope. When Dr. Sheppard learns that Poirot has paid a visit to Caroline while he was away, he admires Poirot’s skill in manipulating Caroline through flattery and confidence. But Dr. Sheppard does not seem to realize that he too has been manipulated. Poirot sent Dr. Sheppard away for the afternoon for two reasons: to gather information about Ursula Bourne and to gain space to interview Caroline without Dr. Sheppard’s interference.